Twelve men have walked on the moon and two of them have visited Switzerland thanks to SwissApollo an association that aims to keep mankind’s greatest achievement alive as an inspiration to current and future generations. This week Dr Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14) spoke to a press conference moderated by Le News editor, Ed Girardet, at the Geneva Press Club. Dr Mitchell (83) outlined the story of his 1971 lunar mission and gave insight to his views on the massive environmental challenges the world faces. He also spoke about the need for improved agreements between nations to keep space free of weapons and about his belief that governments around the world have kept secret significant findings regarding extra-terrestrial visits to Earth.
SwissApollo’s main event was held in Tramelan in canton Bern. At first this small town seems like an unlikely venue, but it sits right on the rösti graben. It also has a large hall that accommodates 1,000 – and all seats were taken. Lukas Viglietti, SwissApollo’s president, introduced Dr Mitchell and Claude Nicollier, Switzerland’s first astronaut, who flew on four Space Shuttle missions. Together they gave a spell-binding presentation on the wonders and challenges of space travel. Nicollier (69), now a remarkably fit-looking professor at EPFL, took part in two servicing missions to the Hubble Space Telescope and spent over 42 days in space. During his final space flight he participated in an eight hour spacewalk, becoming the first European Space Agency astronaut to do so.
The two astronauts described a selection of astonishing pictures and video taken during their flights. With understatement and immense modesty, both men related their experiences in a matter of fact way that left the audience stunned by the magnitude of what they had both undergone and succeeded in doing. But it was not just the large scale achievements that made an impression – some of the more mundane events were intriguing. For example, the moon walkers didn’t sleep the night in the lunar module but on hammocks slung outside. Why you may ask? Space (excuse the pun) was extremely limited inside and besides as the moon has no atmosphere it has no weather!
It is no mean feat to tell a cosmopolitan audience, as Edgar Mitchell did, that on his return to Earth he had an epiphany – a dramatic, immediate and irreversible life change – and to be believed unequivocally.
When asked if humans would ever be able to make it to Mars, Mitchell replied that mankind has much greater and immediate problems to solve first – namely over-population and over-consumption.
Everyone was awestruck by the two men’s innate strength of character, humour, humility and intelligence. At the end, a standing ovation was the very least we mere earth-bound mortals could offer them.
For further information on SwissApollo: http://www.swissapollo.ch/en/category/events